April 15, 2016 By Joseph P. Farrell

Here's a story to file away for possible future reference, shared by Ms. K.F. and a few other regular readers. And it's a potentially important story, not so much for what it says, but for what it might not be saying. Here's two different versions of the story:

Russian war planes buzz U.S. destroyer in Baltic

And here's a Russian English language version from Sputnik:

Pentagon Calls Russian Fly-Over in Baltic Sea Area ‘Old Tricks’

Now, before we parse these articles, recall that the USS Donald Cook was the US naval vessel  "buzzed" by an old Russian SU 24 fighter bomber in the Black Sea during the Ukrainian-Crimean crisis. The Su 24 approached the vessel and, according to most reports, the Aegis-class missile destroyer's electronic systems went completely dead. The Su-24 then executed no less than 12 mock attack runs, and the vessel then beat a hasty retreat to the Romanian port of Constanza, where, we were reassured, the vessel was scheduled for a routine stop to "show the flag." The US has consistently either denied or downplayed any suggestion that the electronics systems failure and the Russian "mock attacks" were related.

Now consider these statements from the first article(USA Today); it begins by a review of the incident:

Two Russian SU-24 jets made "numerous, close-range and low-altitude passes" on the U.S. ship Tuesday as a helicopter refueled on the deck, according to a statement from U.S. European Command.

The Cook, which was holding a joint exercise with NATO ally Poland and operating in international waters, "encountered multiple, aggressive flight maneuvers by Russian aircraft that were performed within close proximity of the ship," the statement said.

It said the aircraft "flew in a simulated attack profile and failed to respond to repeated safety advisories in both English and Russian."

At one point, the ship's commanding officer viewed a particularly close pass as "unsafe and unprofessional" and suspended flight operations until the aircraft left the area.

So, let us note two things: (1) the Russian aircraft involved was the same type as was involved in the first incident with the USS Donald Cook, and (2) the mock attacks were said to be "unsafe and unprofessional," words that conjure the image of an incompentent and reckless Russian pilot flying his plane at extremely low altitude and high speed. The reality is probably quite the opposite: for such a maneuver to be executed at such low altitude and physical proximity, the pilot would rather seem to be highly skilled.

THen comes a rather interesting statement in the article:

One pass was about about 30 feet from the ship at an altitude of 100 feet, according to a defense official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about it. Two more passes farther from the ship came at 50 feet above water. (Emphasis added)

The question here is what might be the things about this incident that are not being reported? The fact that the incident involved the very same US missile frigate and the very same type of Russian aircraft as were involved in the original incident is hardly coincidental, and this raises the prospect that perhaps the frigate's electronic systems experienced yet again either a partial or nearly complete loss of capability. Is there any other indicator that this might be the case? I suggest there is, and it's this:

At one point, the ship's commanding officer viewed a particularly close pass as "unsafe and unprofessional" and suspended flight operations until the aircraft left the area.

Of course, with Russian aircraft passing within mere tens of feet of a vessel launching helicopters(or at least, attempting to), launching such aircraft would be hazzardous, and the captain made a logical decision, for a potential accident would endanger the aircraft, his vessel, and their crews, the Russian aircraft and their crews, and create a dangerous international incident.

But by the same token, during the Cold War, such "close encounters" between the Russian and the West's militaries were standard fare, both in the air and at sea and even under the sea, as both sides tested each other's nerves and resolve by precisely such maneuvers.  So why the cancellation of flight operations? Such operations would be highly risky if, indeed, one's radar and other electronics and communications systems were being interferred with.

I suspect, therefore, in my high octane speculation of the day, that we might be looking at another "Donald Cook incident" for the simple reason that the US Navy would have refitted the frigate with new equipment and shielding and anti-jamming equipment after the first incident, and the Russians, by parity of reasoning, would want to test their own, and the new American equipment by similar procedures and measure as they employed initially in the first incident. The fact that we might not be being told everything about this latest encounter might therefore be an incidator that things didn't go too well for the Donald Cook.

See you on the flip side...